This week, footballers from several teams including FC Barcelona and Atlético Madrid arrived in Saudi Arabia to play the field as part of the Spanish Super Cup. The footballers from both aforementioned clubs got a very warm welcome upon landing; only one of the teams got on the side of victory at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on Thursday.
When it comes to FC Barcelona, things didn't go as nice and smooth as expected. First of all, the Spanish team lost the match against Atlético Madrid; the latter beat out Barça with a 3-2 score in the Super Cup semi-final. But before we get into the many details of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, it's worth noting how excited Barcelona footballers were upon arrival to the kingdom.
Too excited that the Barça bus got lost in the kingdom?
On Wednesday, the Spanish football team arrived late for a training session in Jeddah in preparation for the match the next day after the bus driver headed to the wrong location. The team was meant to get to Al-Ittihad Club's training area, but the driver took the footballers to the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium instead. The latter is where the Super Cup matches were being held, so it was quite an understandable mistake, but it seems to have cost the team a victorious win.
According to Reuters, the two venues are located about 30 kilometers apart. Due to poor navigation skills, traffic jams, and a side of bad luck, the team arrived at the training ground 45 minutes behind schedule.
Messi fans were cheering LOUD
Throughout the match, attendees proved who they were cheering on at the stadium. Videos of the fans cheering throughout the match when Messi scored a goal is enough evidence that the Argentinian footballer is pretty popular in the kingdom.
This, despite the fact that FC Barcelona ended up losing the match. The Spanish team was actually ahead of the game, with a score of 2-1 in their favor, with just nine minutes left. But those very last minutes changed the course pretty quickly.
"It is a shame, we played a great game, after so long we felt good again, we were in control, dominated and attacked all the time," Messi said in the aftermath of the game.
"We let it slip through certain mistakes when [Atletico] were already almost dead, in less than 10 minutes they turned around a game that we should have seen out."
Barça coach says it's all about the money
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde recently said that playing the Super Cup in Saudi Arabia is a "consequence of the football industry's desire to find more revenue streams," according to Reuters.
This comes a year after the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) agreed to double the number of teams and take the competition outside of Spain. The competition - which concludes on Jan. 12 - was held in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2020. Last November, a three-year deal to hold the tournament in Saudi Arabia was announced; the deal is said to be worth around $44 million annually.
"I know there have been rumblings but football these days is an industry," Valverde said during a news conference ahead of Barça's semi-final match against Atlético Madrid.
"The reason why we are here and why we were in Morocco is because the authorities are looking for more sources of income."
Ticket sales hit a slump
In recent days, media reports have revealed just how slow ticket sales for the Super Cup in Saudi Arabia have really been. According to The Sun, only 9 percent of tickets available to fans have actually been sold; most have been given away ... for free.
Atlético Madrid managed to sell 50 tickets, according to El Mundo. The newspaper has also said that Valencia sold 26, Barcelona around 300, and Real Madrid almost 700. It also claimed that fewer than 200 people traveled to Saudi Arabia to watch the football tournament unfold.
It doesn't look like Saudi Arabia is on the Supercopa's good side nor is Supercopa on Saudi Arabia's best side either. But maybe the dry season will clear up in the kingdom in the next couple of years?